When in doubt, be sure to bet out

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You open-raise with pocket 10s and get one caller who has position on you. The flop seemingly is perfect for you, 8-7-2 rainbow. You make your continuation bet and get called. You figure your opponent for two overcards. The turn is an ace. You’re unsure of whether to bet and you check. Your opponent bets and you fold giving him credit for the ace. He turns over pocket nines. You realize if you had bet the turn, you most likely would have induced a fold.

Now, the assumption your opponent had two over cards is not a bad one.

The bottom line is, though, you never know for sure what your opponent has when calling into you.
He could be on a draw, have a monster or a slightly worse hand. Or he could be floating you, thinking you didn’t hit the flop and is waiting for you to give up on the hand so he can take it.

The point of this article is not to provide a blueprint of when to bet and when to check. That is so situation-dependent on so many factors.

Good players inherently will know the right thing to do based on the situation, though in hindsight the decision may prove wrong. The point of this article is a philosophical one.

If you’re truly torn between checking or betting, then I would encourage you to bet. Most players tend to be risk-averse. If they have doubts, they would rather check. The problem with that line of thinking is you have now increased your risk by conceding power to your opponent.

By not continuing to exert pressure on your opponent, you have increased the likelihood of pressure being exerted on you. Good opponents will pounce on your indecisiveness and make you pay for it.

Again, this article isn’t meant to be an advocate for overly aggressive betting.

Rather, over your next few sessions, keep this in the back of your mind. When you are truly wrestling with a decision to bet or check, go ahead and bet. See how opponents react and how the hand plays.

Don’t be results-oriented but objectively determine if betting was the right decision based on the information you had at the time. You’re more likely to find out where you stand and what your opponent’s relative strength is by betting rather than checking. So, when in doubt, bet out.

— David Apostolico is the author of numerous poker strategy books including Tournament Poker and The Art of War. You can contact him at thepokerwriter@aol.com.